Almost half of the Greenland ice sheet's mass loss occurs through iceberg calving at marine terminating glaciers. The presence of buoyant subglacial discharge plumes at these marine termini are thought to increase mass loss both through submarine melting and by undercutting that consequently increases calving rates. Plume models are used to predict submarine melting and undercutting. However, there are few observations that allow these relationships to be tested. Here, we use airborne lidar from the terminus of Helheim Glacier, SE Greenland to measure the bulge induced at the surface by the upwelling plume. We use these measurements to estimate plume discharge rates using a high-resolution, three-dimensional plume model. Multiyear observations of the plume are compared to a record of calving from camera and icequake data. We find no evidence to suggest that the presence of a plume, determined by its visibility at the surface, increases the frequency of major calving events and also show that mass loss at the terminus driven directly by plume discharge is significantly less than mass loss from major calving events. The results suggest that the contribution of direct plume-driven mass loss at deep marine-terminating glaciers may be less than at shallower termini.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth-Surface Processes